The Resounding Success of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Proves Hollywood Can Do Without China’s Film Market

Tom Cruise at the 'Top Gun: Maverick' world premiere.

Tom Cruise at the 'Top Gun: Maverick' world premiere. (Image: via Dreamstime)

China is known for locking horns with Western companies, celebrities, and icons if they dare to oppose the ideologies of the ruling Party. From celebrities like Keanu Reeves to U.S. multinationals and tech giants like Yahoo and Google, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) does not spare anybody who raises their voice against its ideas. However, this might change with Top Gun: Maverick. While some Western entities and Hollywood celebrities have chosen to defy the whims of the Chinese government, others have bowed down to its demands. The censor board in China, driven by the government machinery, has forced many Hollywood and foreign film distributors to tweak their content. However, things may not remain the same if the latest trends are anything to go by.

Hollywood and CCP influence

So far, a majority of Western film companies have agreed to the terms of the Chinese government and edited out content that opposes the CCP’s ideology. A refusal to do so usually results in the film getting banned in China. The Chinese box office is huge and that aspect forces many Hollywood film companies to compromise with the CCP’s whims. However, in recent times, Top Gun: Maverick proved that it is possible for Western films to do well without banking on the Chinese box office. The blockbuster, starring Tom Cruise, has fetched over $1 billion globally.

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The film had a huge production budget, amounting to $170 million and it was partly backed by Tencent, a major Chinese investor. However, the company pulled out citing the film’s theme. A Western film highlighting the U.S. military won’t get appreciation from the CCP, it said. U.S. film studios have tried to comply with the censor board in China and Chinese investors have invested heavily in the U.S. film studios. However, the Chinese government still thwarts the release of many Hollywood films citing reasons that are hard to comprehend. Many superhero movies depicting the U.S. government in a positive light have been banned in China in the last few years.

A hand overlayed with the Chinese flag reaching down to a chess table.
A majority of western film companies have agreed to the terms of the Chinese government and edited out content that opposes the CCP’s ideology. (Image: Cammeraydave via Dreamstime)

Success is not dependent on the Chinese market

However, industry analysts are saying that a ban in China does not necessarily mean doom for such films. Top Gun: Maverick proved to be a blockbuster in the rest of Asia and also at the U.S. domestic box office. Another film axed by the CCP, Spider-Man: No Way Home, became a massive hit despite the pandemic lockdown. The same was the case with the Marvel blockbuster Doctor Strange 2. Analysts say it is hard to predict what content or theme in a film will please the CCP or ruffle its feathers. Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, also starring Tom Cruise, was given a green signal in China. 

Top Gun: Maverick has not been released in Russia and China, but it has been a resounding success globally. This indicates Hollywood film studios may stop depending on the Chinese box office as they did earlier. The tendency of Hollywood film studios to bow down to the whims of Chinese censorship has also fetched them backlashes on their home turf. A number of prominent U.S. politicians have lashed out at studios like Paramount. This scathing criticism at home and the high-handedness of the Chinese agencies may have produced some impact on the top Hollywood studios.

The Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, California.
This indicates Hollywood film studios may stop depending on the Chinese box office as they did earlier. (Image: Dan Breckwoldt via Dreamstime)

Earlier, Sony/Marvel put their foot down with the Chinese censor board asking them to cut a scene showing the Statue of Liberty in Spider-Man: No Way Home. The Chinese authorities then banned the film in China. However, that did not stop the superhero flick from becoming a massive hit worldwide and earning a whopping $1.9 billion. The success of Top Gun: Maverick will act as a morale booster for Hollywood to move away from Chinese censorship.

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